37. Laura Griffin Memorial Run, 2009

Another January rolls around without seeming to leave any space between it and the last one, and another cold morning finds me on George Street waiting for the Laura Griffin Memorial Run to start.

This is a personal race for many of the staffers at the College of Charleston, as well as for anyone who runs around the Battery.

About the Course

This is the only course of its kind in Charleston. It starts on Meeting Street, near the campus gym on George Street. It does the usual zip around the Battery and then ends in front of the Sottile Theatre. Due to the time of year, it’s normally held during rough weather. It’s probably the coldest race in Charleston, and sometimes it even rains on us. Funny thing, though… I never minded the discomfort. There was too much community to worry about that sort of thing.

It’s a CofC course for a CofC race. I never knew Laura, having only come to CofC years after her death. However, I do run around the Battery often, and I take many, many, many nervous glances at the cross streets down there.

The Farewell Race

This was the last of the Laura Griffin Runs, which was a little sad for me, but satisfying at the same time. It was going to be the last time I could participate since I’m moving to Burlington soon, so I was glad to have the opportunity to be here for the farewell event. The city of Charleston has raised the costs and requirements for downtown races. More police have to be hired, and they have to be paid for four hours. It was just too much in the end, and the organizers decided to end the event rather than let it die slowly.

Other Concerns

The man who hit Laura and drove off was reinstated recently, and so he was allowed to resume practicing law. We’re all a little upset about that. No one else gets reinstated after something like this. What sort of strings did this guy pull?

He didn’t just drink, smoke pot and snorted cocaine. He hit her just after dark and drove away. He filed a false insurance claim and kept quiet for three of days. He only turned himself in when he became absolutely certain that he would be caught. He has no honor, and he shouldn’t be allowed to strut around a law office.

I understand that he had to do some classes and attend some meetings. Everyone who gets busted for DUI has to attend meetings. He had to take randome drug tests, stay sober, blah blah blah. So what? Is there a chemical test to see if he’ll call an ambulance next time? Is there some kind of little meeting which will guarantee that he won’t leave the next person bleeding on the street?

I don’t have an axe to grind against druggies. Beer is okay if used responsibly, pot is only bad because it’s illegal and anyone who does coke shouldn’t be surprised when his life falls apart. If he had just been impaired, I wouldn’t mind his reinstatement so much. It bothers me because he left her there. That’s who he is.

As a person who was once hit by a car, I can relate to the situation very well. What if the adrenaline hadn’t allowed me to stand up? What if I had lost consciousness? If he could have driven away, would he have done it? Without the lawsuit, would I have spent the rest of my life paying the medical bills? If he had hit me just a little differently, would I have ended just like Laura? Needless to say, I’m against the reinstatement.

But enough of that. This was a good race. I should write about how things went.

Before the Race

As we all expected, it was cold. I mean, really cold. I was wearing shorts, but I had my gloves, hat and track jacket. Mercifully, it wasn’t raining this year. I parked in the St. Phillip Street garage and ran down to George Street for a warm-up. I had pre-registered this year, so I got my t-shirt with no trouble. It was a sweatshirt this year, which came in handy later in the day.

I ran my race packet back to the car and returned to the gym for a pre-race stretch. I noticed a few reporters, getting shots and opinions on the final run. Things were pretty normal, really. The only thing that separated that race day from any other was the temperature.

The Race Itself

The Laura Griffin Memorail Run has always been a smaller race. That’s probably why the raised costs hit it so hard. I had a bit of trouble separating from the crowd, but after that I was able to cruise on. I made a decision early on about my goals for the race. Would I document the race or leave the camera behind so I can go for a Personal Record?

It wasn’t a difficult decision. This was the last year for this event. Posterity won out over Pride. I run faster without the distraction of the camera, but I wanted to get some race photos. So sue me. I more or less followed my pattern from the” Resolution Run. Kind of hard on the first mile, easier on the second, and hard on the third.

I expected to finish in maybe 24 minutes, but to my surprise I broke 23 again! My official time is 22:50. I’m pretty sure that I was a bit faster than that, but I didn’t check the clock at the exact moment I crossed the line. It’s possible that a mistake was made, but I’m satisfied that my standard 5K time is now under 23 minutes.

This is an occasional down-side to the way the times were recorded. One guy clicks a button whenever someone goes across, and a sticker from your race number gets put onto a sequentially numbered card. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best you can do when you don’t have enough budget for timing chips.

Final Thoughts

It was a fitting end to the event. Some of us froze before the race, but were comfortable running. Others dressed warmly and wound up sweating their way through the five-kilometer course. In many ways, It was just like any other year. As usual, there were booths and demonstrations in the gym afterward. I watched a few demos, but didn’t stay for the awards.

Looking back, that was a mistake. I finished third in my age group! It’s the first time I’ve ever placed! They called me later to tell me that I had gift certificates in the mail! On the site I have the fourth fastest time in my age group, but a friend heard them call my name at the ceremony. Something is screwy somewhere… maybe they got some guy’s age wrong. Anyway, I have my certificates, so all is well!